Gulf Coast Groove: A Year of Must-Attend Festivals in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores


The sun-kissed shores of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores aren’t just a hotspot for beachgoers—they’re a year-round stage for some of the most vibrant and diverse festivals in the South. Whether you’re a local or a traveler with a heart full of wanderlust, the Alabama coast beckons with an invitation to dance, dine, and discover amid the crash of ocean waves and the crescendo of live music.

Festival season is where the Gulf Coast truly shines, and in this guide, we’ll explore the top five events that are as much a part of this picturesque landscape as the seagulls that dot the skyline. Join the chorus of travelers, setting sail for a vacation that’s not just about the experience of a single getaway but an annual cultural ‘tide’ that transports you to the heart of what makes Orange Beach and Gulf Shores so unique.


Zydeco & Crawfish Festival – (April 22)

Magnolia blooms and the guitars’ strumming signal the festival season’s beginning, with the Zydeco & Crawfish Festival heralding a spring in its step. It’s a love letter to the bold flavors and lively beats that define the Deep South.

Imagine dancing under a bright Southern sun, the rhythm of the washboard competing with the surge of the surf from a nearby beach. Here, your worries melt faster than butter on a bed of crawfish as you join locals and visitors in this jubilant dance. The event includes a fun run, 5K races, and programming for the littles. Admission is free.


The Aroma of Adventure

For foodies, few things are as heartening as a plate of hot, fresh crawfish. At this festival, you’ll find them prepared every which way, from boiled in Cayenne to tucked into tacos. If mudbugs aren’t your jam, there’s also a medley of other southern staples to indulge in—catfish po’boys, jambalaya, and more.

Check out this Alabama Beaches dining guide for after the festival.

Hangout Music Fest – (May 17-19)

Welcome to the Hangout—a full beachfront festival-goer’s paradise. This isn’t just a festival—it’s a holistic extravaganza of sun, sea, and song. The Hangout Music Fest is an exhilarating escape for music lovers, drawing big-name artists and rising stars to perform with the crystal waters at their backs. 

Headliners from a kaleidoscope of genres (Nelly, Zach Bryan, Lana Del Rey, The Chainsmokers, etc.) perform alongside beach activities.


The Wharf is another address that offers off-the-charts fun. Pencil it in on your visit to Gulf Shores Orange Beach.

A Symphony of Splendor

This beachside bacchanal isn’t just about the music but the experience. You can start your day with a sunrise yoga session, revitalize at the spa, or even adopt a pup for the weekend at the ‘Puppy Kissing Booth.’ The art market showcases the local creative scene, from crafts to visual arts, and the hammock hangout provides a quiet space to recharge.

Munchies Amidst the Melodies

Beyond the beats, gastronomic delights await you at the Shrimpy Awards and Craft Beer Oasis. Delight your taste buds with the region’s finest seafood paired with craft beers from local breweries.

Annual National Shrimp Festival (October 10-13)

The sands of Gulf Shores take on a golden hue set off by the vibrant colors of the Annual National Shrimp Festival. This harvest celebration is a nod to the flavors of the Gulf, paying tribute to the humble yet heroic shrimp. 

The event defines the al fresco dining experience, as cool ocean breezes mingle with the aromas of cookeries crafting crustacean crescents. Over four delectable days, you will enjoy every bit of this delicious celebration as more than 10,000 pounds of shrimp are prepared and eaten.

Photo from festival website.

More than Just Seafood

While seafood is the star, other performers bring their A-game to the festival. Renowned artists and chefs showcase their talent, ensuring there’s a sautéing, serenading, or seasoning to be savored every corner you turn.

A Swirl of Art and Music

The Shrimp Festival’s scenic setting morphs into a sprawling art fair, showcasing wares from over 100 talented artists. Meanwhile, the sound of live bands provides a soundtrack that’s as varied as the shrimp dishes on offer. Admission is free.


Hangout Oyster Cook-off & Craft Beer Weekend – (November)

If you thought one festival was a catch, the Hangout Oyster Cook-Off & Craft Beer Weekend presents a double line, lure, and sinker for seafood lovers. But not just the oysters from the northern hemisphere are celebrated. 

This festival is all about the diversity and daring of North American oysters, prepared in every way imaginable. From fresh and raw to engulfed in gumbos, the Oyster Olympics offer something for every palette, with a side of suds to wash it all down.

Photo from festival website.

Oysters Galore

Over a weekend, the humble oyster is honored, and up to 60,000 of its kind are shelled and served at the craftiest cook-off. Enjoy samplings from amateur and professional chefs as they ply their passions and copyrights with these salty delicacies.

Brew With a View

Complementing the cook-off is a craft beer weekend with the region’s finest hops. Beer enthusiasts can join the tasting tour, sipping on pale ales against the panoramic backdrop of the beach. Pair your pint with live music or an oyster-shucking lesson, and your day is made.

Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival – (November 7-17)

The Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival lets you step into the world of music, where notes and narratives collide. This ten-day celebration of storytelling through songs draws artists from around the globe. Each chord is a chapter, and each lyric is a life lesson. From newcomers to Grammy-winning veterans, this festival is your VIP pass to the backstage of the music scene.

Photo from IG page.

A Spotlit Sanctuary

The festival spans multiple venues, each a sanctuary for the art of the singer-songwriter. Close encounters with music luminaries through performances and panels give attendees a peek behind the curtain of creativity.

The festival honors the moral character and integrity of Frank Brown, a night watchman at the FloraBama for 28 years. That’s quite a legacy. 

The Essence of Expression

The festival is a tribute to Frank Brown, a local hero and night watchman at the FloraBama for nearly 30 years. It inspires songwriters to share their love, loss, and laughter tales. It’s a reminder that music isn’t just about listening – it’s about living, and here on the Gulf Coast, the stage is set for you to do both.

Fun For All in the Alabama Beaches

The Gulf Coast’s festival season isn’t just about the events; it’s about the people, the culture, and the shared moments that make the temporary feel timeless. The next time you plan your Southern getaway, think not only of the tranquil beaches and the rolling waves but also of the unforgettable memories you’ll create by syncing your calendar with the rhythm of these amazing cultural gatherings.

Stay up to date with the Alabama Beaches events at this online calendar.


Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have mastered the art of making a moment last, just like a well-penned song or a sumptuous meal. In a world that’s constantly moving, these festivals are your tether to tradition, your jetpack to joy.

This article was originally written by Karen Dawkins of Family Travels on a Budget in 2019. It has been updated by staff in 2024.

Read more from Destination Expert Karen Dawkins at:

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